Civility — It’s Not Just for Winners!

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s all too easy, while in the rapture of our rightness, to lose sight of the fact that we’re in the minority in this state… by a lot. So outnumbered are we that the Warwick Daily Times’s imbalanced labelling of blogs needn’t be seen as an unmitigated example of bias. Calling Anchor Rising “conservative” on a list of Rhode Island blogs is reasonably accurate shorthand for “this one is different from the rest.”
That being the case, the best strategy for bringing about political and cultural change is even more advisable for us, and by this, I mean persuasion, not shouting loudest and not talking with the most self-confident vitriol. In the circumstances that our geographic reality places us, any opportunity to engage in discourse with others whose views differ from our own is, perhaps, a chance to win a convert, very possibly an opportunity to plant seeds of reconsideration, and almost definitely a time to hone our own arguments.
Some of you may recall the tone of the comment sections on this site back during the Laffey/Chafee primary, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that our continuing to allow comments at all was an iffy thing at that time. Now, I’m sure some clever-headed one among you will think to respond that our readership will dry up should we restrict comments, or do away with them altogether. To such a threat, I can only reply by patiently explaining that we don’t view this as a business venture; we’re not looking for fame, and we’re certainly not worried about our trickle of revenue evaporating — which is to say that my reply is, “So what?”
We publish this blog for two reasons:

  • We enjoy thinking, writing, and discussing these topics.
  • We hope to change our state, country, and world for the better, to foster a healthier culture and society (again, mainly through reasoned persuasion).

If you look likely to thwart us in either of these goals, we will have no choice but to begin limiting the forum that we provide (free of charge, and with the highest of hopes).

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David Davis
David Davis
14 years ago

Let’s not shout from the rooftops regarding the corruption, greed and overall lawlessness that is pervasive in government, social services and public sector employment in this state. We should all just get along and try to reform this disgrace by being nice to one another.
That tact has moved our minority / opposition party a long way in the quest for reform.
I for one would rather have no “Conservative Blog” (I’m not saying it like it is a bad label as opposed to others) than have a blog that follows the same weak minded drivel and attitude that has been the Rhode Island Republican Party for the past several decades.
If I am to be censored on this blog then I would rather it go under. Free Speech is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, FREE HEALTHCARE is not!!!!!!

Louis C. Hochman
14 years ago

Related-ish problem …
This is Lou Hochman from the Daily Times. Sorry for any offense conveyed by the “imbalanced labeling” – it certainly wasn’t meant as any sort of jab, but I could see how pigeonholing you (or anyone else) could be seen as such. For future reference, we’ll just let community/political blogs do what they do best – and speak for themselves.
Our site’s been burdened not with a civility problem, but with one of mass spam – it’s gotten increasingly aggressive over the last few weeks. We’ve thought about restricting comments as well, although I’m reluctant to limit conversation on our site (the alternative is a particularly annoying captcha available to us through the service we use).
As is, we approve comments before posting. Generally speaking, any opinion is fair game, although we won’t approve outright slander or comments we perceive to be in outrageously poor taste (and when there’s a need to reject a comment, I’ll usually write to the poster with an explanation and an invitation to repost). Of course, we run up against the occasional accusation of censorship, and in the strictest sense, it’s not unfounded – but we do our best to make sure we’re not just silencing people whose views may differ from those of the newsroom. Past that, we can’t make any promises – the First Amendment gives us all a right to free speech; it doesn’t promise anyone’s got to provide anyone else with a platform.
I hope you don’t get to the point where you’ve got to restrict comments. It would be a shame – that’s half of what makes blogging interesting. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
-Lou

Justin Katz
14 years ago

There’s a difference, David, between shouting from the rooftops and shouting at somebody who’s trying to talk to you. You shout from the rooftops to get people’s attention; if you shout in their faces (or if they see you trying to shout people down), then they’ll dismiss your message.
As for the censorship meme, it’s a sorry day among conservatives when they begin failing to see the distinction between a private forum provided at an individual’s or private group’s expense and the censorship barred by the First Amendment. I’d say it’s a rather liberal declaration to insist that any private forum that doesn’t allow you complete autonomy to say (on somebody else’s dime) whatever you want would be better of not existing.

David Davis
David Davis
14 years ago

“As is, we approve comments before posting. Generally speaking, any opinion is fair game, although we won’t approve outright slander or (((comments we perceive to be in outrageously poor taste))) ”
Yes we all know only the legitimate media is allowed to print comments and editiorials that are in poor taste.

Justin Katz
14 years ago

Lou,
I don’t think anybody took “conservative” as a jab. The concern (as Andrew and I just mused, over the phone) is that sites such as RI Future, with its current headline on your page of “Listen to Scott Ritter,” will appear to be presented as mainstream, objective venues.
As for what we may or may not deem necessary with comments, we’ve very adamantly held on to the principle that the best comments sections are those that are completely open, and we’ve deleted very few comments over the years. In other words, there are a number of layers of “restricting” and “limiting” comments — including registration and a lower threshold for slander and outrageousness — before we get to dropping them altogether.
I’ve found, however, that the occasional statement that the comment sections are a service that we offer for others’ use and that we are free to take away has sufficed as a reminder.
Thanks for the inclusion on your site(s), by the way.

David Davis
David Davis
14 years ago

“Not only is our state in dire need of frank and equitable debate within its own borders, but we remain on course to find ourselves nationally on the wrong side of a sort of Cold Civil War.”
Justin,
Does any of the proceeding sound familiar. You are correct we are in a war for what is right and just in this world. The Culture of Corruption needs to be put to rest. To us it is a war and engaging the enemy in commentary that is not always “nice” is a valid way to fight some battles. Just because myself and others have strong beliefs that differ from the status-quo of Rhode Island we are labelled as combative.
I have a deep belief that the only way to have our small minority of a voice heard is to treat it like a war and fight for what is right .
Remember you are the one that opened this forum to the public. If you would prefer it to be a “civil discussion or shall I say a flacid liberal discussion” then close the forum to the public.
Then you and your friends can sit around and stroke each others egos and say what a nice peaceful little world you have created.
If that be the case I will continue to shout as loud as possible; if not on your front line then I will move to another front line.
Cut the rope and let the anchor sink with the rest of Rhode Island.

Louis C. Hochman
14 years ago

Justin – I certainly see where you’re coming from, although I don’t think I agree. I think most people understand that whether they’re explicitly labeled as such or not, blogs by their very nature inherit a certain amount of bias. Of course, so does mainstream media, although any quality mainstream media does its best to listen to and present all reasonable sides of a discussion, and to minimize the impact of its creators’ biases. The difference, as I see it, is that blogs aren’t necessarily held to that standard – and generally shouldn’t be. The world would be an awfully dull place without some opinionated discourse. But I think most people assume by default that a blog will filter its reports through the views of the blogger, whereas a decent mainstream media outlet will at least make an effort not to. I guess the not-so-long-winded version of the point I’m trying to make is that even though we didn’t explicitly label RIFuture as left-leaning or liberal, and did label Anchor Rising as conservative, I’d expect most people would assume they’re not looking at a neutral form of media to start. Certainly, the descriptions were a little imbalanced, but honestly, until you brought it up, I hadn’t given it any thought. Even in retrospect, I see it as a pretty minor oversight, but I see where you’re coming from. We’ve already got a bit of disclaimer text above the blogs feed-ins on our site about how they represent the views of the authors, not the KCDT/WDT, although I’d be curious to hear if others share your view that the presentation could be seen as endorsing them as mainstream, objective news. I’m certainly open to rewording that introduction or otherwise changing the presentation if it seems that’s a common concern. I’m hoping… Read more »

crowd surfer
14 years ago

You have a right to say what’s on your mind. You do not have a right to spray paint it on the side of my house. Or, in this case, on a website paid for and administered by someone else. I think it’s entirely fair to expect reasonable and intellectual discussion. Many sites have allowed discussion to sink so low they are no longer worth reading.
Justin, I respect your position, and as a reader, hope you will insist upon it. Your website provides an education that cannot be found elsewhere; be on guard to ensure it stays that way.

Justin Katz
14 years ago

David,
I was not speaking exclusively — or even particularly — about you. But for debate to be frank and equitable, it must be leavened with a certain level of mutual respect. It will be critical, for example, if we are to diminish the powers that be in this state, that we undermine their support from within. It does not make tactical sense, nor does it properly define the “enemy” to bully those who’ve been drawn in to low-level participation in the problem. For my own part, I only label people as “combative” who write such things as “knock off your sanctimonious whining about what heros you are” (especially when nobody had made the argument from heroism).
Similarly, you’ve moved, in this thread, from the forceful debate that you offered elsewhere to an unmerited combativeness. We’re not looking to create “a nice peaceful little world.” We’re trying to expand the opportunities for a too-seldom-heeded way of thinking to be heard in this state — one that can be voiced in multiple ways. We want people to speak their minds; we want opinions to be expressed candidly and in such a way as to illustrate the emotions and points of view at play.
But we also wish to encourage (and receive for ourselves) a bit of courtesy from those who use our resources. If courtesy is too much for you to bear (and again, this post wasn’t aimed directly at you), then perhaps another “frontline” would provide a more amenable atmosphere. Start your own blog, if you wish; we’ll link to it — even if you’ve so little respect for us that you’d wish our anchor to sink just because our approach differs from yours.

crowd surfer
14 years ago

Mr. Hochman, I appreciate your candor. I’m still left wondering what compelled you to label one politically, but not the other. It’s all too common in the MSM.
You said, “any quality mainstream media does its best to listen to and present all reasonable sides of a discussion, and to minimize the impact of its creators’ biases.” To me that means constant self-assessment. The question should not be whether all blogs have an inherent bias (I agree) but rather what biases resulted in you labeling one conservative, but not the other liberal. Thoughts?

David Davis
David Davis
14 years ago

Crowd:
Don’t put a billboard up on the side of your house with a sign that says open to the public and I won’t use my spray paint.

Louis C. Hochman
14 years ago

That’s a fair point, Crowd Surfer (by the way, I couldn’t find contact info on your site, but I wanted to contact you about including it on our blog page as well).
As I’ve said, it was really just an oversight, on my part specifically. I suppose one could infer all sorts of ideas about what biases I or the paper might have based on the very fact that we didn’t initially flag it as a slanted presentation. But really, it probably had more to do with long hours and not enough nearby coffee – a slip, but not a Freudian one. My own politics don’t really fit neatly enough into any one mainstream category that I’d have an interest, subconscious or otherwise, in slanting characterizations of generally left-leaning or right-leaning media.
Like you said, though, part of the process is constant self-assessment. If I was writing the same piece again, I’d probably word it more neutrally.

David Davis
David Davis
14 years ago

Sometimes a subject you are passionate about leads to heated debate. This thread is one of those situations for me at the moment.
Sometimes people need to be hit over the head with an issue before the light turns on. It is a pervasive problem with the electorate in this state.They are generally apathetic with regard to many of the issues that are causing a crisis in this state.And the established media which is dying a very rapid death doesn’t care to focus on local issues they prefer to take their news off the wire.
Corruption at the State House, Cranston City Hall and many other bastions of Government in this state is once again being allowed to run rampant. With no true insight being given to the public.
We don’t have time to be civil with regard to resolution of these issues. We need to stand up and fight and if it means yelling at people sometimes then it needs to be done.

Will
14 years ago

I have to respond to this:
“I guess the not-so-long-winded version of the point I’m trying to make is that even though we didn’t explicitly label RIFuture as left-leaning or liberal, and did label Anchor Rising as conservative, I’d expect most people would assume they’re not looking at a neutral form of media to start. Certainly, the descriptions were a little imbalanced, but honestly, until you brought it up, I hadn’t given it any thought.”
You’ve summed up the concerns of many conservatives, which is to say many in the “mainstream media” (MSM) often don’t “give any thought” to labeling conservatives as conservatives, but don’t — either intentionally or not — do thing same thing when referring to liberals, either by using some other adjective such as “progressive” or more often than not, by omitting an adjective altogether — thus giving the impression of neutrality or objectivity.
Obviously, anyone who reads RIFuture will know pretty quickly that it is a far left blog, which is far from objective — and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just be kind enough to use the same standards for conservatives.

Justin Katz
14 years ago

David,
I would argue that we don’t have a choice but “to be civil with regard to resolution of these issues.” Apathy is a huge problem in Rhode Island (coupled with intellectual disinterest), and I’ve found that hitting the apathetic over the head merely sends them retreating further into apathy or, worse, confirms them in the fallacious views that one is attempting to beat out of them.

Jon Scott
Jon Scott
14 years ago

Justin et al:
I have been reading through the posts here and have to add my own observations, as blogs are an important part of any politician’s life in 21st century America.
I have always been impressed with the fact that Anchor is something more than a simple cheerleading site for conservatives. There is a certain intellectualism that rises above the street fight mentality. With the exception of certain Chafee v. Laffey threads, this blog always seems to take the high road, as evidenced by the length of most responder’s posts.
I like RI Future and understand what Matt is doing, but the focus is much different and there are a large number of “Well… my candidate can beat up your candidate” kind of posts. That said, they do an excellent job of informing and motivating the progressive troops. The atmosphere is much different, though.
I come here for high line dialogue. I have to admit that, on occasion, I must even read Don’s posts a second time in order to get the full impact. I remember being very disappointed that one of his best philosophical discussions was hijacked by the Chafee Laffey vitriol.
I can understand your concerns and am certainly not privy to what you get behind the scenes, but it would be a shame to curtail a good discussion (even one that involves some occasional shouting). As I have said previously, you have received recognition from national pundits who are impressed.
May we all do our part to keep the discussion focused and out of the depths, as well as available to everyone and may the Anchor stay secure on its rode.
Jon Scott

Mike
Mike
14 years ago

I think we need to call the vampire public-employee unions what they are and STOP pulling punches. I am for less civility not more.

Justin Katz
14 years ago

Mike,
You can be uncivil, if you think it’ll move things forward… just not here. In our space, please temper your strategy.
I think you’re misdirected, though. Union members (at least) are just people trying to do their best for themselves and their families, and realities in this state will soon be forcing disappointment, even relative hardship, on them. Granted, that disappointment will derive from unrealistic expectations, but it can only increase their resistance to public necessity if we treat them as enemies, rather than as fellow citizens deserving of consideration.

David Davis
David Davis
14 years ago

Justin:
With every passing post you seem to sound more and more like a bleeding heart liberal. I think you need to be on that other blog whose only future is the fact that the liberal union members, government employees that will soon become the chronically unemployed a place to read about their plight.
Of course the(SSS) Social Service Scumbags will always have a job thanks to igonarance of their Union Brethern.
I just noticed the SSS where have I heard that before????

Justin Katz
14 years ago

David,
I can only assume that you have virtually no knowledge about me or my political philosophy. I’ll resist treating you in kind by pondering aloud what personal qualities of yours lead you to presume to tell the guy who administers this blog that you think he “needs to be” on the one to which it is most antipodally positioned.
Your closing sentences raise some interesting questions about philosophy and strategy, but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline to raise them, because I’m really not that interested in what you might say.

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

” … realities in this state will soon be forcing disappointment, even relative hardship, on them.”
Thanks, Justin, you made my night.

Michael Morse
14 years ago

” … realities in this state will soon be forcing disappointment, even relative hardship, on them.”
Thanks, Justin, you made my night.
Susan,
Instead of focusing on and finding joy with Justin’s statement it is my sincere wish that nobody in this state that works hard, pays taxes and contributes to society find dissapointment and hardship. We can right this ship. Cynacism isn’t going to get us anywhere.
And please everybody, hold up on the attacks, your opinions have been hammered home and will serve no purpose other than to give you a little satisfaction. I hope you are already satisfied and we can move forward.

Melissik
13 years ago

One afternoon, I was in the backyard hanging the laundry when an old, tired-looking dog wandered into the yard. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home. But when I walked into the house, he followed me, sauntered down the hall and fell asleep in a corner. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out. The next day he was back. He resumed his position in the hallway and slept for an hour.
This continued for several weeks. Curious, I pinned a note to his collar: “Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap. ”
The next day he arrived with a different note pinned to his collar: “He lives in a home with ten children – he’s trying to catch up on his sleep.”
I cried from laughter
Sorry, if not left a message on Rules.

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